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Hitting John Lennon, a run-in with Bob Dylan, not to mention those love affairs... Terri Hooley reflects on an action-packed life

The man dubbed the 'Godfather of Punk' whose career was immortalised in the movie Good Vibrations tells David O'Dornan why he is stepping away from the decks

DJ and businessman Terri Hooley
DJ and businessman Terri Hooley

By David O'Dornan

He turned 71 two days before Christmas and Northern Ireland's 'Godfather of Punk' Terri Hooley says now is the time to end nearly 60 years as a DJ - and regrets, he has a few to mention.

His colourful career is most famous for helping The Undertones find success with Teenage Kicks through his music shop and label Good Vibrations, a story which was turned into a successful play and movie of the same name.

Now he is set to embark on a 20-date Goodbye Vibrations Farewell Tour kicking off in Belfast on New Year's Eve and Terri admitted there are things he would have changed when he reflects back on life.

"I regret a lot of things," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "I regret that I never got the chance to put out Alternative Ulster by Stiff Little Fingers! But I do regret things and sometimes the way I've treated people, but I'm good, bad - but not evil.

Terri Hooley outside his Good Vibrations shop
Terri Hooley outside his Good Vibrations shop

"People say I'm far too generous and I'm too good to people and all the head melters. I mean, especially in the shop, I was stuck behind that counter and I knew more about people's families than I knew about my own.

"I could tell you their life story. People came in and told me the same story for 30 years, and sometimes I didn't always have the patience with them.

"One of my biggest regrets is that when the film came out a lot of the people who helped me in the past with Good Vibrations are all dead and I just wish they'd have been alive to have seen what happened with the film and the play as well at the Lyric, and then to go to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, that's amazing.

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"I have to pinch myself sometimes. I never thought that anybody would have remembered all the things that we did 40 years ago and the punks are particularly very proud of their heritage and all the things that they did. It's just like one big family.

"But my biggest regret in the world was that I never had an older sister. I had an older brother, John, but he was not a very nice person. He's been dead for 20 years and he's not missed.

"He was a very selfish person. My mother said that if I was out in the garden playing with a wee stone, he had to have that wee stone. He was two years older, but it was like the difference between chalk and cheese."

Terri's had his fair share of scrapes over the years, including when John Lennon punched him during a disagreement over Northern Ireland - "he hit me and then I hit him back" - and Bob Dylan told him to "F away off and never speak to me again" after he protested at his concert because he wanted him to withhold his taxes over the Vietnam War. But it hasn't just been celebrities that Terri rubbed up the wrong way.

He said: "I've been attacked by both sides. It used to happen to me all the time, getting beat up for bringing young people together with the [record] label.

"And then when the film came out and the play, a lot of people who've attacked me in the past have apologised.

Terri in Good Vibrations on its last day of trading
Terri in Good Vibrations on its last day of trading

"When the play was on at the Lyric, this guy gave me a card and it was a Christian card all about healing and he's now married with a couple of kids and he's a Christian.

"He was a guy who had attacked me and beat me up. He gave me a terrible hiding. And he was at the play and he apologised to me and I put it on Facebook that I forgive him.

"You have to move on. I just can't live my life hating these people, there's too much hate in the world.

"I was working for Kodak down in the docks and one night I was coming out of work and three gunmen tried to grab me in a car.

"And then two guys down the docks saved my life and jumped in and that day somebody in work had shown me a thousand singles for £40 in an ad in the Exchange and Mart.

"So I thought if they're going to kill me, I might as well go and do something. I had been a fanatical record collector so I decided to set up a record shop.

Hooley with punk band The New Sex Pistols in Belfast in 1979
Hooley with punk band The New Sex Pistols in Belfast in 1979

"I think they thought I was a Catholic because they were loyalist paramilitaries and they just got that wrong. A lot of things like that happened."

As he winds down his career, Terri concedes that he has mellowed, at least in terms of the hedonistic hellraising habits of his heyday.

He said: "I'm quite enjoying the quiet life. I'll soon have the chance to read all the books that I've never had the chance to read. My politics have got very radical, in that way I haven't mellowed, but I have mellowed when it comes to partying.

"Stuart Bailie talks about my 'yahoo days' when I would disappear for three days partying, but those days are definitely gone. My girlfriend is definitely a good influence on me. I can't do two nights out in a row.

"People say I've been far too generous but it's a sort of karma thing. Love or hate, what you seek is what you'll find, and I think if your true self is honest you can live with yourself, but if a lot of people around you are dishonest it's hard to live with truth.

"I've always had a lot of drama in my life. A lot of ups and a lot of big downs but my life is perfect at the moment. I don't go into Belfast during the day, sometimes I'm a bit agoraphobic and I don't want to leave the house.

Terri Hooley had a run-in with Bob Dylan
Terri Hooley had a run-in with Bob Dylan

"I don't go into Belfast city centre during daylight hours because you meet a lot of people and they just want to take you to the pub and talk about punk.

"And then you meet 10 people and they want to buy you a drink and I don't drink like I used to. I've used up all my drink tokens years ago."

Terri's slowing down is also in no small part to a major health scare six years ago that left him in hospital for months for a triple bypass heart operation after a heart attack before he then suffered a stroke.

He said: "It happened on December 1 six years ago. We had a Good Vibrations party organised in the 100 Club in Oxford St on December 16 and I said I'll be out of here for it and the doctor went: 'Terri you're going nowhere. You've had a heart attack and you've got pneumonia'.

"And I didn't believe him, because I'd had a heart attack 20 years previous and the pains in my arm and my chest I knew all about but I didn't have it this time.

"So I cried for about three days but on the Thursday night I took really bad, and the doctors told me that if I hadn't have been in hospital I'd have been dead.

Terri Hooley had a run-in with John Lennon
Terri Hooley had a run-in with John Lennon

"So I did cool it for a while. I was in hospital for nearly three months, then I got out and a month later I had a stroke and was back in.

"I woke up one morning and thought it was pins and needles and had been sleeping on my arm. So I thought: 'This is a warning'.

"The doctors told me in the Sixties that if I didn't stop partying and taking certain things I would never see 30. Then they told me I'd never live to see 40. Now I'm 71. My plan was to go years ago and then there's God's plan, and I don't know why God is keeping me alive!"

When it comes to women, they've played just as big a role in his life as the music.

He said: "After my marriage broke up I was with my ex-partner Eithne for 20 years and she just couldn't take any more of my rock 'n' roll antics, but I still lived with her for two-and-a-half years while going out with my present girlfriend Claire. I didn't want to leave her!

"Then she said to me one night: 'Did you ever think of moving in with her?' And I went: 'Well, you of all people should know, it's not a good idea for me to be living with a woman I love!'

"But Eithne's my best friend in the world. I'm not a womaniser but I do like women. Because I was led astray by women when I was younger, these older women!"

His career took an unexpected twist when Glenn Patterson wrote his life story for the stage and it was then turned into film, with Game Of Thrones star Richard Dormer playing him on screen.

Terri said: "I was very nervous about it. I would have been devastated if it had have been a flop, so I'm really glad. The film took 12 years from when Glenn first talked to me about it and so I thought I'd never be alive to see it.

"Richard came in one Friday to my shop and we went at lunchtime for an Ulster fry and then we went to the John Hewitt and had a few drinks and people started coming in and I'd be hugging and kissing people and stuff.

"On the Tuesday we filmed in the Menagerie and Richard really had got me. I could see that this day he was studying my movements and studying me.

"And then when Richard has a few drinks in him he does Terri Hooley and I find it very frightening! But he got my walk and everything, Richard was fantastic and his career has really rocketed since."

Terri was just 13 when he first played records at the Strand Presbyterian youth club on Connsbrook Avenue. Soon after he was taking the train to Holywood and Bangor for gigs.

Now he is preparing for his final New Year's Eve gig - the Hooley Hootenanny at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast - the first show in his farewell run.

He added: "I said I wanted to finish with a tour and see everybody in Dublin and Dundalk and Drogheda, and those gigs are now all filled up.

"I still enjoy doing DJ but you're up against all these kids who DJ from their phone and laptops and stuff, so I'd rather go out with a bang rather than just fritter away."

Terri Hooley's Last Ever... Hooley's Hootenanny is at Belfast's Oh Yeah, December 31. From 9pm until late. Tickets are on sale at www.eventbrite.co.uk

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